Montezuma County officials are again hopeful they have found a public area to access Bureau of Land Management land south of Summit Lake.
The 2,000-acre area is landlocked by private lands, and the BLM and the county have been researching legal public access for the past six years.
This summer, county GIS and planning staff discovered a subdivision easement that borders the BLM land off Road 35.6.
The owner of the property that includes easement on his southern border has informed the county he would not contest its use as an access point to the BLM land, said county public lands director James Dietrich.
“It looks like a promising path forward,” he said. “We kept looking and stumbled upon an easement written into the deed.”
The BLM has stated that after legal access is secured, it will develop a proposal for a parking lot and trailhead at the site. The project would go through an environmental review.
Use would be nonmotorized and be designated for equestrian and hiking, the BLM said. No trails would be developed, and mountain biking would be discouraged.
“We’re excited about the potential to get to BLM land,” said Connie Clementson, field manager for the Tres Rios Field Office. “It will provide for hiking, and that equestrian niche we need to provide to our community. The hunters will be happy too.”
The landowner requested that the parking lot be less visible from his residence, and the county and BLM have agreed.
The non-exclusive access easement is about 60 feet wide and runs about 1,000 feet along the southern border of the private property. It was created by Western Life Subdivision in 1999 to provide access for undeveloped private land to Road 35.6, planning officials said.
The county and BLM are working collaboratively to survey the easement and the BLM boundary there. Description of the easement indicates it abuts the property line, which also is the BLM boundary, officials said.
If using the easement for public land access is perfected, the county and BLM plan to partner on improving a rough dirt road within the easement and installing a parking lot and trailhead.
“There has been a desire to reach that land forever,” Dietrich said. “It offers recreation opportunities, and we believe people should have access to their public lands.”
The area would have a seasonal closure from Dec. 1 to April 30 to protect big game habitat.
A previous plan to access the land off County Road N where it parallels the public land failed. After a survey, officials discovered there was narrow sliver of private land between the county road easement and the BLM land. The sliver ranged in width from a few inches to 15 inches.
Developing access has been resisted by nearby property owners.
Residents have been vocal about the traffic impact that developed access would have on Roads 35.6, 35.9 and N — narrow, gravel roads that they help maintain with county assistance.
To facilitate BLM access, in 2017 the county designated the roads from red-signed private roads to green-signed public roads.
They cited subdivision language that stated “Road easements 60 foot wide, 30 foot each side of the centerline on this plat are hereby dedicated to the public use forever.”